The Shawshank Redemption

January 26, 2017

shawshank

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the short story Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Two men doing hard time become friends.

This is one of those just-about-perfect movies. The description doesn’t do it justice; Tim Robbins as a man facing life in prison for a crime he can’t prove he didn’t commit, Serious Honey Morgan Freeman as the guy who becomes his friend, and (how could I not mention) James Whitmore as the mild-mannered prison librarian (by default, no MLS here) who has no life outside the walls of the prison. Oh, and yet again Otter Family Favorite Actor Clancy Brown gets to play an evil bastard.

This is a gem of a movie. I was about to call it a short gem, but I checked and it’s two and a half hours…sure doesn’t seem like it. This tells you how good it is, well written and full of description and feelings. Freeman’s narration is matter-of-fact but warm, and every detail is perfect.

This one is too good to miss. If you haven’t already seen it, get it now and watch it. You can thank me later.


Ghostbusters (1984)

January 25, 2017

ghost84

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Three guys start up a business catching ghosts that are annoying people in New York City. Then things get wierd…

I was kind of horrified to learn that, in the 15 years since I started reviewing movies…I HAVEN’T WATCHED THIS ONE EVEN ONE TIME.

I know I haven’t, because if I had, it would have been here. So, after seeing the excellent update of Ghostbusters that just came out in 2016, I went downstairs to our Basement of DVDS and…this wasn’t there! Anywhere! I know we own it, honey, have you seen it? No I haven’t seen it, did you loan it to someone? (loud wails and cries of woe) (clicking keyboard keys) 2 days later: Amazon delivery! And now we own it again. Whew.

I was actually dating Mr. Otter when this came out, and we saw it in the theater together. And, of course, loved it. This movie is right up there with Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Terminator 2 for great quotable sound bytes; there are many I use to this day, in all kinds of situations. And I won’t launch into them here, because they are already bouncing around in your head. Don’t pretend they’re not.

But I will tell a story. In 2012, I spent a long weekend in Santa Barbara with a couple of girlfriends; one of them traveled with me by train, and the other joined us later that night after driving up from LA. The two of us who took the train got to the motel to check in, and were joking with the desk clerk, and suddenly noticed that her name tag said ZOOL. I am not joking. We (including the clerk) laughed ourselves silly, claimed to be the Keymaster, and made all the Ghostbusters jokes. Turned out that the day we checked in was the day (or day after) Whitney Houston died, and the desk clerk’s name was Whitney and she just didn’t want to deal with everyone having to comment on it…so she became ZOOL for the duration. I loved that!

So back to this awesome movie. The casting is superb (I’m a huge fan of both Murray and Ackroyd, although they were by no means the only good actors there. I also had a crush on Ernie Hudson for a long time…), the writing is fast paced and witty, the special effects were amazing in their day (and many of them purposely looked slightly cheesy, because the story required it).

Truthfully, I cannot praise this movie highly enough, and the best thing is that it stands up extremely well to repeated watching…which I’ll be glad to do, just come on over and we’ll call the Ghostbusters one more time…


Häxan

January 5, 2015

haxan

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A seven-part ‘history’ of witchcraft from the middle ages to modern day.

This is a Danish silent movie from 1922; it’s broken into seven parts, four of which are live-action, the others being narrated with illustrations from woodcuts or medieval drawings. The narrator is describing the history of witchcraft from earliest history up to the present, with a lot of the description being enacted by live actors when he reaches the middle ages.

From a modern point of view, this is kind of silly; we were watching it as the first entry in this year’s New Year’s Day moviefest (theme: WITCHES) and it was a good place to start, not too intellectually demanding for early in the morning (well, 9:30 am, but it felt early.)

Some of it is stuff we already knew, about what people thought witches were and did and how they were supposed to have acted. The live-action stuff was actually well done for the time, but was eminently mst-able anyway.

The last section, that comes up to modern times, gives the medical diagnosis of ‘hysteria’ as the modern equivalent of witchcraft, with women being treated for this supposed illness and confined to mental institutions with their ‘cures’ as our version of accusing women of being witches and imprisoning, torturing or killing them. Again, this was made in 1922, so nowadays this is laughable; back then, it was probably thought-provoking.

An interesting and well-made period piece.


Who Framed Roger Rabbit

January 23, 2014

roger

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

fav

From the novel of the same name by Gary K. Wolf

A detective is hired in a divorce case that turns out to be much more complicated than he thought.

I was surprised to find that I have never reviewed this movie. Mr. Otter and I saw it when it came out in 1988…and who among us who was old enough to go to movie theaters then can forget the joy of seeing this movie for the first time? Seeing such a witty, fast moving, wonderful script brought alive with people and toons INTERACTING? it was completely new and different. I still remember how amazing it was, sitting in the theater and seeing this and thinking, they can’t do this, it’s not possible…but it WAS.

And I’ve watched it several (okay, MANY) times since…but evidently not since January 1, 2002, when I started reviewing movies.

So now’s my chance. And what, twenty six years later, is there left to say about this movie?

It stands up to the test of time very well. It’s still charming and funny, bright and irreverent, a visual treat and a really wonderful piece of work. We love Bob Hoskins chez otter, and this is arguably the best-known thing he’s done in a pretty impressive body of work. And Chris Lloyd, oh man. What a genius of complete over-the-topness. And we still quote a lot of lines from this movie around the house- “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way” and “oh my god, it’s DIP!” being two of my favorites.

So watch and enjoy, this is one of the best movies ever.


The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

October 27, 2013

cook

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Four people whose lives coincide violently over the space of a week.

I saw this movie in the theater when it came out, and loved it.

I was pretty much the only person of my acquaintance who did…EVERY OTHER WOMAN I KNEW who saw it WALKED OUT OF THE THEATER. I’m not joking. Personally, I think this one is on my top ten movies of all time list…but certainly not one for everyone. Spider Jerusalem did not like it at all. Why doesn’t someone just kill him? he kept asking. That’s not the point, I said, it has to proceed to its inevitable conclusion. And yes, it’s hard to watch knowing that Things Will End Badly.

There is a reason that the very beginning of the movie shows theater curtains opening; that’s our tip-off as to what Greenaway is doing here. And it works-this is a perfect example of Grand Guignol- theater made to push the limits of fear, horror, sex, death…you name it.

Yes, it is EXTREMELY graphic. This is at the same time one of the most beautiful and one of the grossest, most appalling movies I have ever seen…it’s an amazing story of contrasts, and Greenaway handles them perfectly. The combination of beauty and true gross ickiness, of love and despair and cruelty, of quiet moments bursting into uncontrollable violence…it’s really amazing.

Seeing it again was a treat- I had forgotten almost everything except the scene in the delivery van (ugh) and the ending; it was so satisfying to once again see it unfold, in its inexorable way, with consequences following actions and no escape in sight for any of the characters. Really really good.

Watch it if you have a strong stomach. You’ll be glad you did.


Westworld

October 27, 2013

westworld

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Grown-up amusement park gone seriously wrong.

I actually saw this movie in the theater when it came out in…urk, 1973? wow, I’m old. At least I didn’t drive myself, someone (my older brother, maybe?) dropped me off at the movie theaters and picked me up later. And as is our wont in the family I grew up in, I got there early.

The double feature was Westworld and Soylent Green…and I walked in on the ending of Soylent Green. Dammit. THAT was bad timing.

But Westworld was great; it has always been a favorite of mine, because the implacable THING that will not stop following no matter what is one of the two or three kinds of recurring nightmares I had as a kid…seeing someone else face it on the screen was AWESOME.

And the movie is fun- it was amazing writer Michael Crichton’s screen writing and directing debut, it had good and well-known actors (at the time) in it, and the technology, although laughable now, was right up to the minute. It was exciting, funny, scary, and full of surprises. And James Brolin was a TOTAL HONEY then.

Now, having said that, it was made FORTY YEARS AGO. Compared to movies made now, its pace is slow and stately, the scary stuff is not so scary, the blood and debauchery (which were rather shocking back then, I remember all the discussion about it) are tame, and the ending, although it does definitely end, kind of leaves the viewer hanging…but none of this matters.

This was totally game-changing at the time-it made a huge impact not only on me, but on most of the people who went to see it. I keep hearing rumors of a new version of it being planned with state-of-today’s-art f/x and all, and would like to see that…but I am skeptical that without Crichton’s hand at the helm, the gore and salacious details will be amplified at the expense of good storytelling…oh, this newsflash just in from Den of Geek as of September 2013 (and I’m quoting it below in case the page disappears):

“Westworld, the 1973 cult classic about an amusement park populated by life-like robots that allowed vacationers to live out their every fantasy, is on the fast-track to become an HBO series courtesy of J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot. Yul Brynner was the “bad robot” of the original film, which dealt with what happens when the robotic inhabitants started acting on their own…and targeting the resort’s human visitors. The memorable trailer for the film (which we’ve embedded below) described Westworld as the place “where nothing can go wrong…go wrong…go wrong…”

The pilot will be co-written by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, who will also produce along with J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, and Jerry Weintraub of Bad Robot. HBO describes Westworld as “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.” I guess this means we’ll be seeing more of the realistic robot hookers from the 1973 flick. Considering the “adult themes” present in Westworld (which sprung from the mind of none other than Michael Crichton), there’s plenty of opportunity for cable TV ultra-violence and gratuitous nudity.

We can’t wait.”

So, we all know J. J. Abrams…but Jonathan Nolan is ringing a bell…imdb…uh oh. On the one hand, he wrote The Dark Knight, which was very good. On the other hand, he is responsible for The Dark Knight Rises and the suckfest that was The Prestige.

Hmmmm…we will see. And yes, I’ll catch it as soon as it’s available to those of us who don’t pay out a chunk of our income for cable television…stay tuned, Truefans!


The Outlaw Josey Wales

June 22, 2013

wales

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel Gone to Texas by Forrest Carter

It’s a Clint Eastwood western, nuf sed. But a pretty good one. Northern raiders kill his family during the Civil War, so of course he joins the Southern raiders; after the war, he’s on the run, but finally finds a girl and a family, and they stop the bad guys who are still chasing him.

One of the spate of reformist westerns made in the 70s, meant to show more depth of character than the old-style fare- Native Americans are allowed to have personalities and reasonable needs/wishes/motivations; girls are allowed to kick ass; bad guys are good and good guys are bad.

I saw this several times when it came to commercial TV in the 80s, and haven’t watched it in at least 15 years; glad to see it holds up pretty well.

But Chief Dan George really does steal the show.


The Big Lebowski

May 22, 2013

lebow

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Three bowling partners get mixed up in a kidnapping and meet a bunch of very strange characters.

Mr. Otter and I saw this movie in the  theater. We had liked Fargo, which came out two years before, very much. We thought this could be a very good movie.

It’s not. We were nonplussed. The only thing I remembered from it, besides the bowling, was the scene where they were scattering the ashes and didn’t allow for wind direction, which was pretty amusing. We thought it was pretty stupid, and when O Brother Where Art  Thou? came out two years later, we figured it was the Star Trek Movie Syndrome- every other Coen Brothers movie is brilliant, and every other one is not.

So that was fine, not every movie is a winner.

Except…this movie became a cult favorite. People quoted it over and over. The Dude Abides is a well-known catch phrase. Jeff Bridges has said that of all the movies he’s done, this is the one people most want to talk about when they meet him.

And both Mr. Otter and I thought, well…it was a long time ago. Maybe we were wrong. Maybe we missed something.

So we got it from Netflix and watched it again.

And…nope.

Sure, there were moments. Some of the characters were amusing. But overall? no better than we remembered. We have no idea why it’s such a cult movie (Mr. Otter: Slackers. Must be slackers watching it…) but it sure did nothing for us.


Dark Star

March 28, 2013

darkstar

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A bunch of hapless astronauts on a looooong mission run into some…problems.

This was the first full-length  movie made by both Dan “Alien” O’Bannon and John “A Whole Bunch Of Movies Too Oogie For Me To Even CONSIDER Watching” Carpenter. There’s a written intro by O’Bannon talking about making this movie and audience reaction that’s pretty funny. I was in high school when it came to theaters (yes, I’m old) but I didn’t see it until it was on television a couple of years later.

This movie is such a family favorite. We all loved the bomb, and whenever my dad would go out back to feed the donkeys (we had a couple in the horse field out back to eat all the weeds…cheaper and easier than mowing, and they were cute) he would say, Feed the aliens. Feed the aliens. Why do I always have to be the one to feed the aliens? and we’d all laugh hysterically.

This movie is very mired in its time- the music, the electronics, the look of it is relentlessly 70s, which it should be…although at one point, a character is making a video diary and looks at the 8 track he’s using to record it, and you know the filmmakers were thinking ahead to when that would be hilarious because even then, they were awful technology.

For a very low budget (55 grand, even in those days, wasn’t much) movie, it had some good special effects, some nice bits (hyperdrive, and the big spaceship filling up the camera) that were echoed by Star Wars a couple of years later, and a good, if EXTREMELY low-key, sense of humor.

This is very worth seeing- don’t expect boffo, or to be rolling on the floor laughing, but it’s funny, the characters are great and the ending is very good.


Les Miserables

January 4, 2013

lesmis

Internet Movie Database 

CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, and dudes, if you haven’t read it DO IT NOW, it’s AWESOME.

Love + forgiveness = redemption in France in the early 1800s.

So this musical came to the SF Bay Area around 1990. And Mr. Otter and I, who love musicals, borrowed the soundtrack from one of our libraries and listened to it.

And we were not impressed.

But we had never read the book, and that was a point in our lives when we spent a lot of time reading to each other. So we got the book from the library and read it to each other.

The whole thing.

It took NINE MONTHS.

It is, after all, 1400 pages long; think of reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy out loud (which I have also done).

And it was GREAT. We loved it, and I have re-read it several times.

And after reading the book, we totally got the musical. Because now we understood and loved the characters, and the situations, and why everyone was doing/feeling/reacting as they were. And I saw the musical twice in San Francisco (with that huge revolving stage, it was amazing!). And I have the French, British and American soundtracks (the American is best) and have listened to them a billion times. And love them. And the book.

So guess how excited I was about the movie? Yup, on a scale of one to ten it was about 150.

We saw previews. I *vibrated* in my seat, I was jumping up and down so fast. I was so excited.

And then it was opening. On CHRISTMAS DAY, oh my god. No, I’m not THAT excited.

But…Mr. Otter and I both had the day after Christmas off, and it’s a big shopping day. Let’s go to the very first show that day at our local movie theater, I said. Everyone will either be shopping or sleeping in.

So we got there at 10 am, on a bitterly (for the San Francisco Bay Area, around 45 degrees) cold morning, before the box office opened. We were third in line, and the theater was half full…although when we got out, there were lines EVERYWHERE, and didn’t we feel smug?

So after all that…how was it?

Well, True Fans, as you know, I sent an email right afterwards to say how wonderful it was. I was overwhelmed. I was not the only woman in the theater crying my eyes out, I can tell you. It was really really amazing.

But…details kept niggling in my brain. So I decided to wait to review it til I had seen it again, which I knew was imminent.

And indeed, we ended up with a house full of guests over New Year’s, and the Barracuda, the Magyar Princess and I joined Bassoon Boy and Craftygirl at the 8:30 pm show on New Year’s Eve, figuring nobody else would be there. We were partly right, nobody else but ANNOYING SOCIAL REJECTS were there…someone kept kicking my seat, and the guy ahead of us had to make all possible noise with far too much food…but I digress.

It was really really good. Anne Hathaway was AMAZING, she just broke my heart both times. Hugh Jackman was excellent. I liked the guy who played Marius. I kept thinking Amanda Seyfried looked familiar, and I was right, I had just seen her in In Time. The actress who plays Eponine (Craftygirl says she was Cosette in the original production) was excellent too. And I liked Sascha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter more than I have in anything else they’ve done.

Russell Crowe…not so much. Not a good choice. I always think he looks whiny and depressed because he has almost no facial expression…and in this movie, everyone sang in real time with closeups, so that was not so good. Especially the part where he can’t really sing that well. Sure, he was on key and hit the notes…but everyone else in the cast was a GOOD SINGER. Him? no. And it was painfully obvious, and a shame, because Javert’s songs are really wonderful if you can do them justice. Which he didn’t.

The cinematography, settings, costumes, all the STUFF was good. The bits of rewriting to make it comprehensible to people who have not seen the show or read the book (now you know why you should, don’t you?) were good.

What DIDN’T I like?

  • Russell Crowe. Okay, but not as good as someone who could actually look and sing the part AND ACT.
  • The rinky-dinky disneyesque song they added for Valjean to sing in the carriage as he takes Cosette away.
  • Cutting some really good songs that advance the plot and make more sense of it. Would it have been so hard to keep them in and make it a 3 hour movie instead of 2 hrs and 30 minutes?
  • Cutting whole characters (like Marius’ grandfather, who shows up for approximately twelve seconds).
  • Having Javert pin his medal on Gavroche. This is an affront, would never have happened and should never have been done. Feh.
  • Why didn’t Fantine lead him away at the end? did Jackman really have to grandstand? it’s what the song says, after all…and is an awesome ending. Wierd.

Overall? lovely. I’d go see it in the theater a third time. I’m probably not going to buy it, but would gladly rent it every couple of years. But really? the book is SO good and so much better, I’m just going to reread that. Join me!

Oh, and this is the best review ever.  Wish I had thought of that.

Also awesome: Les Mis in emoticons

Okay, one more: Nostalgia Chick talks about the stage show and the movie. Funny and absolutely on target, in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.